Last Wednesday, OUT@UTM, the LGBTQ club on campus, set up a table to educate students on the policies that dont allow homosexual males to donate blood. The education session was a response to the UTMSU-sponsored blood donor clinic that was taking place in the Presentation Room of the Student Centre. Students and faculty alike were invited to donate if they met requirements presented by the Canadian Blood Services.
The Canadian Blood Services logo states Blood, its in you to give. But this is not the case for gay males. Currently, the Canadian Blood Services’ policy states that a man who has sex with another man, even once, since 1977 cannot donate blood for life.
The Canadian Blood Services website also includes a page specifying indefinite deferrals from donating blood, meaning that although the criteria above may be met, certain individuals are still unable to donate blood.
Although it is now known that almost anyone can contract HIV/AIDS if they do not use protection when sexually active, or if they share needles, OUT@UTM felt that this policy reflects a negative lifestyle for homosexuals.
In coordination with the UTMSU Expression Against Oppression Week, OUT@UTM volunteers handed out flyers that read, We now know that anyone can contract HIV and testing measures have improved drastically since the 1970s. There is limited surveying of heterosexual HIV/AIDS contractions.
The point of the handouts was not to discourage people from giving blood, but to educate them and have them realize that some people are excluded from the process, said Kumari Giles, an OUT@UTM executive.
The OUT@UTM flyer also stated, If all blood is tested, there is ample time to test preceding transfusions regardless of the sexual acts of the donor. Rejecting donations from males who have sexual intercourse with other males (even if it only happened once) is a rejection of a donation that could potentially save a life.
Not being able to donate because of my sexual orientation is frustrating, said another member of OUT@UTM. While I understand the precautionary measures they [Canadian Blood Services] are taking are in the best interest of the population, I dont think its fair to assume all sexually active gay males engage in risky and promiscuous activity. I feel I should have as much right to donate as any sexually active heterosexual person.
This ban enforces homophobic ideals of homosexuals being diseased or having what they called the gay disease, suggested Giles. Those ideals are not accurate in todays society. You are not going to catch the gay and HIV/AIDS is prevalent in many communities, so why should it continue to be referred to as the gay disease when its outdated?
Upon handing a flyer to an older female Canadian Blood Services worker, the woman insisted that theres a reason for it. The representative referred to the indefinite deferral of sexually active gay males.
Several passersby were shocked to learn about the ban, which they had no knowledge of. Others suggested a petition be signed to create a change. In the past few years, other transferable items like bone marrow and organs have lifted or revised their ban on gay donors, due to the low numbers of donors, said Giles. Canadian Blood Services is constantly advertising the need for blood donations, and this is not the first time a donor clinic has been set up